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Mar 29, 2006

Ports shore up security

Story PictureWhile most Belizeans are conscious of street and drug crime, terrorist attacks are not something on most people’s radar. That is about to change, at least for the people working our international gateways. No we are not talking about the airports or border points, but the maritime ports. As Jacqueline Woods found out today, thousands of people and millions of dollars in goods pass through these key facilities every day, the question is, are they being watched as well as they should be?

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
To date, there has not been any real security threat to any of Belize?s port facilities, but that does not mean we should be complacent.

Kendrick Daly, Chief Safety Officer, Bz. Port Authority
?The port facilities, we look at it very much vulnerable because it is open and we do not have the number of people to cover it when it comes to security-wise and it is always open and not fully manned and the amount of people who visit them on a day to day basis, it is very hard to control everybody.?

In Belize there are six port facilities that have met all international standards for security. However, the terrorist attacks in the United States on September eleventh 2001 were a wake up call for those involved in safety and security.

A team specializing in maritime security, contracted by the Organization of American States is currently in Belize. They are working with security guards and officers from both the government and private sector. Belize Port Authority?s Chief Safety and Security Officer Kendrick Daly, says the two week exercise is part of Belize?s international obligation to keep our port facilities safe at all times.

Kendrick Daly
?The training actually is a follow up to a security survey that was done later in 2005. In December 2005, the Organization of American States contracted Halcrow International, which is a maritime specialist company?they are specialised in maritime security and they were contracted to come down to Belize to conduct some security surveys on our port facilities.?

The survey primarily focused on access control and it was agreed by the O.A.S. and the B.P.A. that training assistance would be given in the areas that were most needed … like the Tourism Village.

Kendrick Daly
?If we saw what happened post September eleventh, it is necessary for us to tighten up on our security due to the heavy influx of the cruise tourists that is coming to Belize.?

In 2005, over fifteen thousand cruise ship passengers passed through the Tourism Village every week. It is one of the busiest ports of entry. Though the facility is not open to the general public, a number of persons do gain access into the compound.

These security guards are being trained to handle all kinds of situations that they may confront and be able to detect acts of security threats and take preventative measures. The searches conducted are not only limited to everyone entering or leaving the compound, but the different kinds of transportation that is used by tourists and visitors to the facility.

Kendrick Daly
?Most of the emphasis is being placed on the cruise at this time.?

Jacqueline Woods
?Why is that??

Kendrick Daly
?It is our latest and most booming industry at this time. And for an incident to happen it could be very devastating on our country and economy, so we try to pay a lot of attention to that field.?

While the security guards were in the field doing the practical work, the officers who will be in charge of them at the various facilities were busy at the Belize Institute of Management getting trained in their own field of management. In 2001, the International Maritime Organization put in place the International Ship and Port Security Code. Belize has been on target with meeting the regulations.

Kendrick Daly
?I am happy to say that so far we have not have any incidents involving the cruise industry and our intention is to keep it safe at all times. Like I said, it?s part of our international obligations with the International Maritime Organization and all other organisations that involve cruise and maritime safety.?

According to the Belize Tourism Board, in 2005, a total of eight hundred thousand cruise ship tourists visited the country. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

The two-week security training course will end with a simulation exercise at the Radisson on April seventh.

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